Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ready or Not

When she is overwhelmed with emotion, she says this. "Oh, Mama!" she says. Please help me!"

But there is no Dora the Explorer band-aid for the pain she feels about preschool coming to its inevitable end. "How many more days? Tell me, tell me."


It's 8:30, and the light is fading, but I can still see her. She shuts her eyes tight and wails. Tears squeeze out and over her cheeks. "No! No! Oh, but I will miss my teachers. Are you sure? Are you sure it's not eight more days? Because two isn't very many. It's like, 'one, two,' and that's it," she says. She is shaking. "Can you talk to them?"

"To your teachers?"


"What do you want me to say?"

"Ask them for one hundred more days. I need one hundred more. I'm too small for Kindergarten."

"Okay, you can tell them that. Tell them tomorrow on the train trip."


"Why not?"

"I'm too embarrassed." More shaking, more crying. Her bangs are soaked with tears. "Oh! Oh! Oh!" she yells.

"Shhhh. It's okay, I know it's hard."

"Don't 'shhhhhh' me, Mama. Oh, please help me."

But I am no help at all. If there's one thing I've finally come to understand in this year of turning forty, it's this: I can put both hands up on the hour hand and push until I'm out of breath, but I can't stop time.

Preschool graduation

House Resolution 121 Passes!

Check it out at Evelina's Laban! Fight for Comfort Women.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Belated Day In the Life: Saturday

3:30 am: Lea wakes up and calls for me. I stumble across the hall, say "hi baby," fall into her bed and go back to sleep.

7:19 am: Lea wakes up and joins the spousal unit and her sisters somewhere on the other side of the door. I fall back asleep.

8:52 am: I wake up. As is his custom (and dear God, bless the man), the spousal unit has taken everyone to breakfast and the house is peaceful. I take advantage and jump in the shower.

9:07 am: I opt for wavy hair.

9:30 am: Family returns. Tales of hash browns, eggs, bacon, etc.

10:00 am: I take Lea to her Kindergarten playdate. Four girls, two boys, and their assorted parents are present. Most are newbies, so I am regaled with questions. This is mildly strenuous, since two of the families are on waiting lists at private schools and are terrified at the prospect of ending up at our school. "But do they do art?" one of the Dads asked me, concern etched all over his face.

*biting of tongue*

I say, "Oh, yes," and explain the everyday art as well as Art in Action.

10:15 am: Am taking mild pride in Lea, as she is mixing and mingling quite well. Her sisters normally pave the way for her in social situations, so it is nice to see her hold her own instead of shrinking behind my legs.

11:30 am: Lea and I head home to pick up the big girls.

11:45 am: Off to the farmer's market. Purchased:

5 White Lady peaches
1 Quart blueberries
1 Small carton raspberries
2 Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion handpies
2 Yukon Gold Potato and Corn handpies
3 Pounds heirloom tomatoes
1 Vegetable tamale
1 Chicken tamale
1 Medium bag kettle corn

Total = $58

12:30 pm: Lunch!

1:15 pm: Spousal unit takes the girls to the driving range. They bring four dolls and the bag of kettle corn.

1:15 - 1:47 pm: A cursory glance through Vogue, stopping only to read the Winona Ryder article and the excerpt from Alek Wek's upcoming autobiography. Why? I do not know.

2:00 pm: Make blueberry crumb cake for my brother's 2nd despedida at right hand gal's house later this afternoon.

2:45- 3:00 pm: Blogging while baking.

3:02 pm: Cake is done! After cooling, I cut it up, put it on the cake plate, and dust with powdered sugar:

3:15 - 4:00 pm: Everyone gets cleaned up and made presentable. There is the brushing of teeth, the braiding of hair, the placement of hair bands, the tightening of ponytails. I somehow forget to include myself in this ritual and so leave the house looking rather wild and unkempt.

4:17 pm: Walk to right hand gal's house in single file with my children, cake plate held aloft. Upon arrival, we see that everyone is in the swimming pool. The girls stare at me accusingly. I call the spousal unit, who is ten minutes behind, to bring over swimsuits. I hightail it into the bathroom to tame my hair and tend to my eyes. FAILURE. Oh, well.

4:20 - 8:50 pm: A blur of lifeguard duty, conversations on the fly, delicious food, the re-living of quite hilarious pre-child moments with people I have known forever, and kids who disappear for an hour to play without incident which—quite mercifully—allows the grown-ups to avail of delightful cuss words to our heart's content.

9:00 - 9:10 pm: Get the kids into bed.

9:30 - 11:00 pm: Fun with surround sound! A man, you see, has been in my house for the past two days wiring and drilling and wiring and drilling and now? Now when I'm sitting in the den watching a movie, the sound thunders through the back of my head and, it seems, out through my eyeballs. Um, neat! But the spousal unit is enthralled, and who am I to deny him?

11:00 - 12:15 pm: Reading and, at last, sleep.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Nickels, Dimes, Bubbles

I took the girls to the big new playground at Coyote Point the other day, but forgot to stop at the ATM (I never carry cash; does anyone carry cash?) and so found myself in the humiliating position of emptying out my coin-filled ashtray for the requisite $3 or whatever it costs to enter the park. The park ranger woman felt so sorry for me. She kept saying, "That's okay, that's fine, that's enough," as I handed her nickel after nickel, dime after dime. "There!" I screamed in triumph when I'd finally found enough for the entrance fee. She didn't even rejoice with me, that park ranger woman. If ever I become a park ranger woman, I will work diligently to be hilarious when forced to work the entrance booth. Also if I ever become a cotton candy vendor, ear piercer, purveyor of donuts, or barista. Just so you know.

Of note at the park was an overly enthusiastic mother who insisted on following her children around and blowing bubbles at them. Bubbles while they swung, bubbles while they rocked and jumped and climbed. Bubbles, even, when they cried. I watched her with a combination of fascination, annoyance, and disbelief. She was incredibly persistent. What is the impulse, I wondered, to keep them surrounded by bubbles? This thought led directly to the image of bubble wrap and then, quite logically, to the idea that everyone has a natural desire to protect fragile things. Annoyance getting the best of me (this is a shock, is it not, that I would let annoyance win out over empathy or understanding; I'm really so horrible sometimes), I almost yelled out, "Um, that's not going to work, really, this thing you're doing." But she was far away by then, parked at the bottom of one of the slides with the bubble wand poised in front of her lips, ready to ensure a safe landing.

Also of note that day: some sentences scribbled in my moleskine, which I think were a direct response to earlier that morning when the girls asked me if I could write a story for them. Here's what I wrote:
Shhhhhh. The three sisters are singing. Press your ear to the door if you must.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking 'why are they singing all alone in Roonie's bedroom at the top of the house on Moonview Road?' Because, truly, they should be singing in a gazebo in Central Park surrounded by an audience who sighs with pleasure at the rise and fall of their voices.
Sometimes the sentences scribbled in my moleskine are very horrible, but I kind of like these. So maybe I will write a story for my girls. And maybe they will like it better than the very likable The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, which we're reading together now...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Alexander, C'est Moi

Change "Alexander" to "Veronica," and there you have it. I love this book, by the way.

Anyways, it wasn't a bad day as in my pet died, my car was broken into, my laptop exploded, my identity was stolen, etc. etc. No. Not like that. It was far more sinister than that. Sinister because the badness of it was so mundane. All that happened, really, is that nothing went the way it was supposed to.

And now I'm reminded of another children's book. It's a series actually, written by Rosemary Wells. In each one, a bunny kid is having a bad day, but then Janet the Queen of the Bunny Planet comes along and says, "You need a visit to the Bunny Planet. Come in, come in, here's the day that SHOULD have been," and then the bunny kid walks through the portal and has a great freaking day where s/he plays cards by the fire with their Dad and eats gingerbread or tomato soup or whatever. The final page is always the bunny kid back where it all started, but staring up at the Bunny Planet and thinking, "It was there all along."

So, yeah. I'm Alexander and I need a visit to the Bunny Planet.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Best Thing

Oh, I love this! I love what Mary Gaitskill answers in response to the question, "What's the best thing about being a writer?" And, okay, this is from O magazine. Whatever. Go ahead and make fun of me. But now, on to the answer...

"The best thing about writing is being able to clearly express things in a way you can't express in conversation. This is especially true if you are socially awkward and a little inarticulate, which I was when I first started to write seriously (at age 23) and is still how I occasionally feel. In countless conversations I have had, someone has said something and I have had several responses at once, sometimes responses that were nonverbal, coming to me in confused masses of feeling, images, and half-formed thoughts that I could not refine into words until, say, sometime the next day. Anything I did say would feel partial to me and often sounded just plain dumb.

Writing is in some way being able to sit down the next day and go through everything you wanted to say, finding the right words, giving shape to the images, and linking them to feelings and thoughts. It isn't exactly like a social conversation because you aren't giving information in the usual sense of the word or flirting or persuading anyone of anything or proving a point; it's more that you are revealing something whole in the form of a character, a city, a moment, an image seen in a flash out of a character's eyes. It's being able to take something whole and fiercely alive that exists inside you in some unknowable combination of thought, feeling, physicality, and spirit, and to then store it like a genie in tense, tiny black symbols on a calm white page. If the wrong reader comes across the words, they will remain just words. But for the right readers, your vision blooms off the page and is absorbed into their minds like smoke, where it will re-form, whole and alive, fully adapted to its new environment. It is a deeply satisfying feeling."

It is with much regret (and no doubt hysterical laughter from you, my people) that I declare I am no Mary Gaitskill (have you read Two Girls Fat and Thin? Holy schmoley!), but I hardly have to be, do I, to feel as if everything she says here has been floating around in my head all wispy-like for years and years? I can't tell you how often I've wanted to scream, "I'm really not an idiot! I'm just helplessly inarticulate! Here, let me write you a long letter!"

Speaking of writing, we have added a delightful new person to our writing group, which brings our total to the ideal number of five. She has a lilting accent and full-throated laugh and silver-tinged hair. And she has an agent. Which I won't hold against her. Hahahahahahahahaha!

P.S. I have no idea why that quote is in yellow. Why is that quote in yellow?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yes, I Know: We All Look Alike

Late last night I received an e-mail from my lovely friend, K., who is half Korean and half Caucasian. She said she was at the gym when a woman with whom we have both been friendly for about four years, started chatting with her. After several minutes, K. realized that this woman had mistaken her for me, thus necessitating an awkward correction.

Indignant and infuriated, was I. Of course I shot back a reactionary e-mail. You know, I've had it with her, I began. Earlier this year, when another mutual friend, P., put his arm around her for a quick hug, she said, "Most Asian men aren't physical. You are the most physical Asian man I know!"

*eye roll*

What would lead her to make such a ridiculous, not to mention—hello!—completely random statement? And then she mistakes K. for me when, in fact, K. and I look nothing alike? And even after an inordinately long time, she couldn't even self-correct? And we've both known her for years? How lame is that? So I sent all this in an e-mail to K., who calmly replied...

You know, I really think she's just a space cadet.

Ah, yes. But a space cadet of whom I am now officially weary.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Q & A

Has it ever happened that you're listening to a song in the car—let's say Rihanna's "Umbrella"—and a person is crossing the street—let's say a guy whose pants are too short and whose baseball cap is too large—and this person is walking in such a way that is completely in time to the song? And did this remind you of the opening sequence of "Saturday Night Fever," and did that, in turn, make you laugh out loud?

Has it ever happened that your dentist has referred to you as "young & hip?" And did this make you first gag (because of the dental instrument stuck in your mouth) and then, when the gagging was over and when it was determined that you were fine and not, in fact, about to choke and die, did you laugh out loud? And was it odd to realize that you could laugh directly from your throat (because of the dental instrument stuck in your mouth)?

Finally, has it ever happened that your older brother is moving to Madison-freaking-Wisconsin, but that he gave you an iSight camera for your Mac so that if, for example, you need to know IMMEDIATELY if he thinks your hair looks weird, you can just ping him and find out? Or if your children want to sing him a Bon Jovi song (they're obsessed; I know not what to do), complete with intricate choreography that must be seen to be believed, they can? And did this knowledge also make you laugh out loud?

Those are all the questions I have for today, but I'm sure that YOU now have some. For my next trick, I will anticipate said questions and answer them without your having to say and/or type a single word:

1) Yes, I love the song "Umbrella." It's an illness. If you have a cure, do tell.

2) It was a 2-hour appointment. My jaw is killing me.

3) No, I will not be starting a new "Nesting Ground Webcam" blog. Instead, I will just describe to you what you would see on such a blog:

a) you would see me
b) you would see me dancing around the kitchen
c) you would see me dancing around the kitchen singing "Umbrella"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Extreme(ly) Cake

Does anyone else watch that "Ace of Cakes" show? The one with the EXTREME bakery in Maryland? You can tell it's EXTREME because everyone is so hipster. Pink bangs! Piercings! Tattoos! Blow torches and chainsaws! Right now one of the cakemakers (is she Filipina?! She might be...) is emotionally distraught—she is crying; she cannot speak—because it is midnight, she has been working non-stop for 15 hours, and her "Fear the Turtle! Maryland Tarapin" cake, which is destined for a graduation party, keeps falling apart. It's so hilariously sad, this situation. In the lexicon, it is referred to as a "caketastrophe."

The thing is that none of these cakes is edible. Well, they're edible, but they must not taste very good because they're composed almost entirely of fondant which, if you ask me, looks just like Play-Doh. Anyways, also in this episode, the bakery owner is rehearsing with his band in the rehearsal space behind the bakery, and because they rock so terribly hard, everything in the bakery starts shaking, there are cakes falling over, coffee spilling, glass breaking. Because it's so EXTREME, you know!?

Now they're about to make a Taj Mahal cake! While simultaneously making a cake in the shape (or should I say "fondant in the shape...) of a basket filled with a hamburger, fries, and onion rings! This one is for the 90th birthday of the proprietor of what was once Maryland's premier deli! Oh, wait! They just said they made the hamburger, fries, and onion rings out of rice krispies. WHAT? How did I miss that? I don't understand.

Oh, yes, baby! Back to the Taj Mahal! They're even doing the reflecting pool. This is crazy, this cake! I have to go! Leave me alone!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What the Crazy-Ass PG & E Guy Did

For the last few weeks, PG & E (that's "Pacific Gas & Electric" for you Right Coasters) workers have been terrorizing my block, forcing limits on our parking, and lounging around on the grass while consuming paper-wrapped items that I can only assume come from some gas station or, perhaps, a 7-11. They are doing this because (I think; I wasn't paying attention) they are changing everyone's gas lines from copper to something else or vice versa (I think; I wasn't paying attention). This has necessitated the use of a jackhammer in some cases, though not in ours.

So, yesterday it was our turn to have our gas lines dug up, etc. etc. The foreman guy knocks on my door to show me what they did and how they're going to patch up the edge of the driveway, etc. etc. He walks me along the edge of our grass, pointing at where the submerged gas line runs. Suddenly, I see a little patch of grass inflate and then deflate. And, yes, I know that grass cannot actually DO such a thing. I'm just saying that's what it looked like. Or, if you prefer, it looked like a little patch of grass was breathing heavily. "What's that?!" I said.

"Well, look at that," said Foreman Guy.

"What is it?!"

"It must be a mole or something. Hey, look at this," said Foreman Guy. He said this to some other guy who was waist deep in the earth in front of my white picket fence. "Look at this," he repeated. This was directed to the other guy digging in the muck near my tomato plants. Both guys extracted themselves and joined us.

So there we were, stooped over in silent fascination as we watched the grass pop up in various spots. I shuddered each time it happened because I was certain that the very next time the ground would break open completely and some multi-headed, slime-covered, pissed-as-all-get-out beast would emerge, stretch its tremendous jaws to reveal its even more tremendous teeth, and swallow me whole.

And then!

AND THEN...the next time the grass popped up, one of the worker guys whipped out a super-long screwdriver and STABBED IT DIRECTLY INTO THE INVISIBLE HEAD OF WHATEVER WAS UNDER THERE. And truly, I felt a tiny bit of lifeforce lift out of the ground and dissipate into the universe.

At which point I screamed and ran into the house.

Monday, July 09, 2007

If Only the Imaginary Camp Filipino Located on a Fictional Site Quite Near My Home Was Not Imaginary

Some friends recently sent their kids to Japanese Camp for three weeks of, well, Japanese culture and stuff. I was seized with envy, immediately Googled "Filipino Camp," and fully expected to find one in Daly City. Alas, no. I did find something called Filipino Heritage Camp in Colorado, which appears to be for children who are adopted from the Philippines. That's all good and well, but I'm now making a formal request to...I don't know what they're called—camp inventors?...for a camp in which the American-born children of American-born Filipinos can be immersed in Filipino-ness with the express goal of, um, Filipinoization. Oh, and the camp should be located within extremely short walking distance of my home.

I kid! I would happily trek far and wide if such a thing existed. Especially after the following bedtime exchange with Lea:

Her: I like being Filipino.
Me: Really?
Her: Yes. I like the lumpia part of being Filipino.
Me (sighing): Same here.

I can already imagine the first day's curriculum! Language, legends, folksongs, art, dance! Groovy snacks! Piko (okay, I guess I could do this myself)! And some other stuff! Stuff that I don't know about! Which is why this imaginary camp would be so fantastically wonderful!

My Dad did his best in my backyard the other day, teaching the girls some simple words. But then, of course, they wanted to know how to say "butt," and then of course my Dad told them, and then of course they thought it was hilarious because, let's face it, the word for "butt" is very, very hilarious.

I bet you're saying it right now. Uh-huh. Try to keep from laughing.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

At the Lake

I took leave without even telling you, dear ones, and for that grievous error in blog etiquette, I apologize. The lake in the mountains was whispering our name, and though my fear of nature (also hats, skiing, rodents, swans, zealots, karaoke, etc.) is well-documented, I heeded the call. And now, a recap:

Number of novels read: 1 — The Divine Husband by Francisco Goldman, which I'm happy to report meets with the much-desired Nesting Ground seal of approval. Inspired by the José Martí love poem, "La Niña de Guatemala," it is loaded with some of the most unforgettable characters ever. Take, for example, María de las Nieves who in a crazed and failed attempt to keep her friend from becoming the child bride of "El Anticristo," aka the next President of Guatemala, joins the Convento de Nuestra de Señora de Belén as a novice. She is soon in immense nun trouble due to her propsensity for twirling bits of wool around in her nostril until she sneezes. Rome declares that self-induced sneezing is a mortal sin of the flesh, and María de las Nieves is promptly thrown into a punishment cell in the novices' cloister.

Number of films watched after the kids were put to sleep: 3 — Volver, Babel, Déja Vu.

Number of Blokus Trigon games played: 20

Number of Blokus Trigon games won by me: 1

Number of hours spent in hammock: 2

Number of minutes spent on computer: 0

Number of creatures and/or buildings and/or foodstuffs built in sand by my children: 12

Number of significant thoughts: 0

Number of Choco Tacos consumed: oh, hush now.
I leave you with a picture of the girls creeping up on a small herd of deer. And, no, I have no idea why Lea is wearing her pajamas: